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Movie : Modern love in modern İstanbul in Irmak’s ’Issız Adam

Friday 20 March 2009, by Emine Yildirim

As I was getting out of his latest “Issız Adam” (“The Isolated Man” or “My Isolated Ada,” depending on how you read it in Turkish), I got so angry with myself. How dare I possibly release tears for this sappy love story, loosely inspired by Erich Segal’s similarly gooey “Love Story”?

But I should have known there was no escape — Irmak is not only a crowd-pleaser but also a cunningly gifted tear-jerker. He hooked everyone who was aching for a larger-than-life romance on their TV screens with that quasi-telenovella “Asmalı Konak” (Vine Mansion) and later mixed history and melodrama in his feature “Babam ve Oğlum” (My Father and My Son) about a family scarred by the 1980 military coup. Over the years, he has managed to generate a very mixed fan base, ranging from kids to octogenarians, rich and poor, intellectuals and populists, left and right. How on earth? The devil hits you where it hurts the most. He creates associable characters filled with big love left suffering as a raw emotion. The dose is always right, and as a nation, we just love to suffer for our love one way or another.

I have a feeling that “Issız Adam” could be a semi-autobiographical take on Irmak’s personal life, judging from the intensely obsessive stance he takes to defend his leading male against all odds. We meet Alper (Cemal Hünal), a thirty-something single heartthrob who’s a successful chef-turned-restaurant owner. Alper lives in a minimally furnished bachelor pad in İstanbul’s lively Beyoğlu district, where his extracurricular activities include collecting vinyl Turkish pop records from before the ‘80s and having kinky one-night stands with half of the city’s female population. His love for the “retro” takes him to one of the many secondhand shops in bustling Beyoğlu, where he spots a beautiful tough cookie, Ada (Melis Birkan), who happens to be searching for a secondhand copy of Thomas Hardy’s “Far From the Maddening Crowd.” Getting those nasty goose bumps yet?

Alper is thunderstruck, and he pursues Ada through the streets, finds out that she owns a tiny kids’ costume shop and tries to win her heart with the cheesiest of pick-up lines. Ada doesn’t buy it. In fact, she’s so well read and articulate that their banter almost causes the poor Alper to have heartburn. But the sparks are flying, and it isn’t soon before the two find themselves in a passionate love affair. Ada teaches Alper about letting go, being deep, having fun, enjoying life, etc. Yet there is something innately wrong with Alper. We could say he is the victim of a prevalent disease among fine young men of today: The poor dear just can’t connect — he’s a selfish loner afraid of intimacy and commitment. Inevitably, we hear those flinching words come out of his mouth: “There’s a microbe in my blood, you deserve someone better than me, I’m sure you’ll meet him soon.” So the question is, after the default breakup, will these two get back together?

Issız Adam” is one big cliché after another. I can think of a lot of guys who could relate to the glee Alper finds in his misery and his relentless efforts to justify his selfish actions, but honestly what an intolerable dimwit. Alas, despite Alper’s mortifying personality, Irmak’s film works like hot tasty butter melting on buns straight out of grandma’s oven. First, uncommon of most Turkish films, the dialogues flow faultlessly and naturally, ringing true to the ear with the right tone of colloquialism that lacks pretension. The actors have something to work with here, which allows them to fully tap their potential. Birkan seamlessly fits as the lively, assertive but sensitive Ada, and there’s an undeniable chemistry between her and co-star Hünal.

But most importantly, it’s more than refreshing to watch a romance that does not look like the de-facto Turkish TV series cramped with overexposed close-up shots that should run half their length. Irmak uses his cinematic tools in full potential via beautiful frames of rich color and shades. No shot outdoes its screen time because of a smoothly running edit, and an amazing soundtrack comprising classic Turkish pop tunes is soulfully intertwined with the ebb and flow of Alper and Ada’s fervent relationship.

Above all, “Issız Adam” is a city romance, and Irmak knows very well that İstanbul’s gem Beyoğlu was, is and will be the stomping ground for all of the city’s couples. The narrow streets, the historic buildings, the little shops, the crowd of the main streets have all been deftly incorporated in the film by way of creating an urban fabric that is so very much a part of and influences our personal lives. If New York has Manhattan, “Issız Adam” is proud to present İstanbul’s Beyoğlu.

Irmak puts forth an unapologetically sentimental film that might have flopped in someone else’s hands but manages to deliver with beguiling genuineness in the hands of its maker. At the end of the day, Alper and Ada become endearing members of your family, and you keep on wishing that they find true happiness. I know, it’s really tacky and juvenile, but you know what, we all need our guilty pleasures now and again.

- Todays Zaman : "Modern love in modern İstanbul in Irmak’s ’Issız Adam’ "

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Source : TDZ, 13th november 2008

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